Friday, June 25, 2010

ECFA and the Destiny of the DPP

ECFA and the Destiny of the DPP
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
June 25, 2010

The Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) will be signed in Chongqing on the 29th of this month. The Democratic Progressive Party will initiate a new round of anti-ECFA political moves.

Once the agreement is signed, it will be a done deal. Even if a referendum is held, the wording of the referendum will have to be changed to read, "Should the already signed ECFA agreement be repealed?" If the DPP demands a referendum, it will be compelled to unambiguously declare, "We oppose ECFA." It will no longer be able to bob and weave, and claim it is calling for a referendum merely as a matter of "democratic procedure." If during Legislative Yuan deliberations the Democratic Progressive Party demands an "item by item review," it will mean it has changed its tune, and is asking merely for "partial revisions" rather than a "total repudiation." Will that mean the DPP is prepared to accept the results of a legislative review and vote? Conversely, if the DPP still wants "total repudiation," why bother with an "item by item review?" Moreover, if the Legislative Yuan submits ECFA to an "item by item review," how can a referendum "totally repudiate" it?

The DPP must make a choice. Is it demanding a "total repudiation of ECFA," or is it merely "in partial disagreement with ECFA?" It must decide. One or the other. Otherwise, it will merely be contradicting itself.

During this round of ECFA negotiations, the DPP has indeed contributed by playing the role of bad cop. The Democratic Progressive Party has taken advantage of ECFA to incite Blue vs. Green conflict. This may be one reason Beijing made major concessions. But now that Beijing has made major concessions, it has left the DPP in a quandary. The DPP may be scratching its head, wondering, "Just why did Beijing make so many major concessions?"

ECFA has become a hot button issue on Taiwan. This is why the content of ECFA has taken on an obvious political coloration. Objectively speaking, based on the content made public so far, ECFA is an astonishingly lop-sided trade agreement seldom seen in the world. Taiwan's early harvest list includes 539 items, worth a whopping 13.83 billion USD. Mainland China's early harvest list includes 267 items, worth a mere 600 million USD. Seventeen of Taiwan's weaker industries were included on the early harvest list. Eighteen of Taiwan's agricultural and fishing products were included on the early harvest list. Mainland agricultural products will not be sold on Taiwan. Mainland workers will not enter Taiwan. Taipei hopes to sign an FTA with Washington. But American Institute in Taiwan Chairman Raymond Burghardt said that even beef and rice would have to be negotiated. By contrast, look at the ECFA early harvest list. If it weren't for our unique political status, would Beijing have made so many major concessions?

But the most significant aspect of ECFA is that given the threat ASEAN plus N poses for Taiwan, it has achieved an equal footing with the mainland. ECFA will also improve Taiwan's chances of becoming an international platform. ECFA will help Taiwan confront the challenges of globalization and international coopetition. This is why the benefits of ECFA outweigh the deficits, and the gains outweigh the losses. This is why it is not easy for the DPP to flatly repudiate ECFA.

Furthermore, any trade agreement is inevitably going to be a "potluck dinner." If I want to eat the dishes you brought, I can hardly tell you not to eat mine. Hence, the tug of war between liberalization and protection. The Democratic Progressive Party is not about to oppose the benefits Taiwan has received is it? Or does it intend to oppose the inclusion of 100 petrochemical industry items on the early harvest list? Does it intend to oppose the inclusion of orchids and groupers? The DPP has no basis for its allegation that "The government failed to demand what it should have demanded." From the very beginning, the Democratic Progressive Party opposed seeking any relief on tariffs. Tsai Ing-wen even favored "building plants on the mainland for high tariff industries." That being the case, all the Democratic Progressive Party can do is demagogue the 267 items on the mainland's early harvest list. But if the DPP compares the pluses and minuses on the two sides' early harvest lists, it will be forced to conclude that Taiwan's benefits outweighed its deficits, and its gains outweighed its losses.

This round of negotiations over ECFA once again underscored the DPP's destiny. During cross-Strait negotiations, when the DPP plays bad cop, it does indeed provide an assist. But that's it. The DPP's role is limited to playing bad cop, nothing more. It is incapable of taking the lead in cross-Strait relations amidst increasing globalization. This is the DPP's political destiny. ECFA does indeed offer both advantages and disadvantages for Taiwan. It does indeed involve both gains and losses. But it unquestionably offers more advantages than disadvantages, and more gains than losses. After all, the DPP did not totally repudiate ECFA. It could only point to a few of the deficits and losses, in an effort to incite conflict and divide society. On the one hand, the DPP is unable to offer any alternatives. On the other hand, it is unable to deny that ECFA's advantages outweigh its disadvantages, and its gains outweigh its losses. All it can do is tear society apart as it engages in internal struggles over the party's future. Such is the DPP's political destiny.

ECFA has effectively been signed. The Democratic Progressive Party sees this as more grist for its political mill. The prospect of another issue to demagogue fills it with glee. But ECFA has again revealed the DPP's increasing marginalization and negation in the mainstream of cross-Strait affairs and globalizaton. In cross-Strait affairs it invariably plays bad cop. On Taiwan it invariably incites social divisions. Can the DPP escape its sorry destiny?

2010.06.25 03:38 am










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